A months-long investigation in Kentucky has led to the firing of a teacher who got into a violent altercation with a student that ended in the man pinning the teen on a hallway floor of a Louisville high school. The incident was captured on video that used as evidence in the probe.
The Courier-Journal reports that William Bennett, a science teacher at Marion C. Moore School, was fired in December in the wake of his dust-up with 16-year-old Jamir Strane last summer.
Investigators found that Bennett used excessive force on and made derogatory statements to the teenager, a 24-page termination letter uncovered by the newspaper stated.
It further noted that he violated the state’s educator code of ethics by not sharing that he had been fired before from a different teaching job on his application with Jefferson County Public Schools and also never shared with the administration that he had previous educator certification cases brought up on him.
It read in part that he was fired from this job because of “insubordination, conduct unbecoming a teacher, inefficiency, incompetency, and neglect of duty.”
This document was a portion of a larger 330-page report from the close to four-month investigation performed by JCPS about the Aug. 23, 2021, fight.
Nine witnesses, according to the News Enterprise, submitted statements about the circumstances around the fight.
Strane initiated the physical fight. He struck the teacher in the back of the head after the two got into an argument. The student ran away after hitting him but was caught by Bennett who then pinned him to the ground, the report states.
However, the report also states that Bennett “admitted to saying something to child about being shot that provoked” Strane. In the summer of 2020, the student was wounded in a shooting.
One student who is unnamed in the report stated that heard the teacher say that Strane was “just another Black boy that got shot.”
Child Protective Services, which also investigated the incident, concluded that Bennett’s statements were “triggering” to the student, “who suffers ongoing emotional trauma as a previous gunshot victim.”
The report states that students and administrators tried to break up the fight, but Bennett would not release the student’s hair. “You proceeded to engage in the altercation despite the presence of another adult who was attempting to de-escalate the situation,” the document reprimands.
Bennett is reported to have defended himself in the investigation. The document quotes him saying, “At no time did I ever take the position as the aggressor during the three assaults upon me. All actions were defensive in nature to protect me, the teacher who assisted, and the students around me. In the case of defending myself and not causing harm to the aggressor.”
Videos shot by students assisted Child Protective Services in determining whether the teacher’s actions were proper. Some young people can be heard in the footage shouting at the teacher, telling him to “get off him” and “let him go.”
When interviewed about the teacher, the principal of Marion C. Moore School, Traci Hunt, told the investigators that in the past Bennett refused to complete the school’s mandatory implicit bias training. She also said that the teacher was involved in an incident with one of the school’s counselors.
The student’s mother, Erica Strane has secured legal representation. Aubrey Williams, the lawyer, has filed a lawsuit against Bennett and Jefferson County Public Schools.
The lawsuit states that her son was restrained by the teacher while he yelled “obscenities, profanity and racial slurs at him.” The lawsuit alleges that the student had “physical, mental, emotional stress, strain, and humiliation” as a result of the fight.
The mother is traumatized too. Strane told Atlanta Black Star at the time that when her son showed her a copy of the altercation, she would break out into tears. He said, “When I showed her the video she just started bawling out crying.”
No comments from the school district have been made regarding this lawsuit.
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